The American criminal justice system is not always all about determining guilt or innocence and then punishing the guilty. It recognizes that some “bad actors” can be deterred from embarking on a life of crime, and can be given a “second chance” through programs that don’t result in a criminal record. For examples, see our blog posts about Mental Illness Cases, Drug Courts, Veterans Courts, Family Dependency Treatment Courts, and Diversion. These “problem-solving” or “accountability” courts are not actual courts, but special programs that impose treatment, counseling, education, restitution, and community service in lieu of … Read More
Last month we discussed judges (Justices of the Peace and Magistrates) who are not required to have law degrees, and whose courts have jurisdiction over areas larger than a city or town. Judges of city, town, village, and other municipal courts in many states are also not required to have law degrees or be practicing lawyers. These judges only have geographical jurisdiction over their own municipality, and in many states their subject-matter jurisdiction is limited to violations of the municipality’s ordinances.
We reviewed New York’s Town Courts and Village Courts in a 2010 post; with over 1200 such courts, … Read More
“Justice of the Peace” is an imposing title. Almost like Justice of the Supreme Court? Not quite; A Justice of the Peace presides over a court of limited territorial and subject-matter jurisdiction, and is addressed as “Judge” more often than “Justice”. Justices of the Peace were originally English quasi-judicial officers who volunteered to preserve the “king’s peace” in their local county or borough. Important qualifications for the position were land ownership and connections with the monarchy (and later, with the Lord Chancellor and Parliament).
American colonists brought the Justice of the Peace system with them, and it persisted throughout the … Read More
Just two months ago, we noted a recent innovation in some courts: contesting traffic tickets by mail. This is another way courts make it easier for the public to do business. For hundreds of years, every interaction with the court system required the physical presence in the courtroom of all parties involved. In just the past few years we have noted the rise of electronic filing for attorneys and then for the rest of us; telephonic appearances; video depositions; online traffic, red light camera, and parking ticket payment; and other ways of interacting with the … Read More
We last discussed eviction procedures in our post about Landlord Tenant Laws back in April, 2008. Now for a brief update:
As noted in the original post, most eviction cases are heard by courts of general jurisdiction, such as Superior Courts or District Courts. Of course specific courts’ jurisdiction varies from state to state, depending on the structure of each state’s judicial system. In a few states, evictions may be handled by local courts of limited jurisdiction.
As if finding which court handles evictions in a given state weren’t difficult enough, the process of kicking out a tenant isn’t even … Read More
Are you being threatened with domestic violence, harassed, or stalked? Do you know someone who is? Every state has some form of legal order that requires someone to stay away from you or your home, stop contacting you, and stop sending you gifts. These orders may be called Order of Protection, Protective Order, Restraining Order, No-Contact Order, or a similar name. The order is not automatic; the person seeking the order must appear before a judge and present evidence of threats or abuse. If the judge issues the order, a person who violates the order may be arrested.
The procedure … Read More
Recognizing that the most influential people in a teenager’s life are often peers, Seattle is adding its first Youth Traffic Court, set to convene for the first time this month. The court will be staffed entirely by Garfield High School students, who will serve as judge, jury, attorneys, bailiffs and court clerks. The students have all received training in these positions from Seattle University law students.
Any Seattle driver younger than 18 who admits to the traffic violation he or she is accused of may appear in Seattle Youth Traffic Court. Following the philosophy of restorative justice, the teen … Read More
So you need to do some legal research for a court case in which you’re representing yourself, or you want to look up a particular local statute, or you simply want to read the court’s opinion for the interesting case you just heard about on the news? Now that you know about the existence of your local public law libraries to meet these needs, how do you get started? It can be intimidating to walk into a law library is you are not a law student or a member of the legal profession.
This is where law librarians come in. … Read More
All state court systems have procedures for handling wills and other estate matters, including estate administration, guardianships, conservatorships, and trusts. When someone dies with a will, the will must be proved to be valid, and the instructions in the will carried out. This process is called probate, so most courts that handle estate matters have come to be called “probate” courts.
Some court systems have separate probate courts; examples can be found in Connecticut, Georgia, and Texas. More often, a state’s main trial court will have a probate division; examples can be found in California Superior Court… Read More
Generally when we hear about state attorneys general in the news, it is because they are suing tobacco companies, or defending high-profile state laws in court. But state attorneys general (“SAGs”) can also be a good resource for guidance on everyday legal issues. SAGs are tasked with providing legal protection to their state’s residents, which means pursuing big lawsuits sometimes, but also providing guidance on issues such as consumer fraud, elder abuse, and victims’ rights.